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By into a claim ductions of
ART. 1. Lectures on History and General Policy; to which is i
prefixed an Elay on a Course of liberal Education for civil and active Life. By Joseph Priestley, LL.D. F.R.S. Ac. Imp. Petrop. Ř. Paris. Heim. Taurin. Aurel. Med. Paris. Harlem. Cantab. Americ. et Philad. Socius. 4to. Birmingham, printed:
Johnson, London. 1788. AMONG the numerous productions of this indefatigable
writer, no one can lạy claim to more utility than the work now before us. By unfolding the phenomena of nature, weav·ing the endless web of metaphysics, or touching the discordant
string of controversy, we address ourselves to few, and our labours are of use to a still smaller number'; but in the narrative of the actions, and delineation of the passions of men in every possible situation, every thinking mind is interested, and draws from this living source of example the most useful kind of knowledge, the knowledge of man. This, as the mind directs the actions of the body, points out the proper employment of all our acquirements; without it as a philosopher, as a man of business, as a politician, a man loses himself in ideal theories, and can never become an useful member of society. The world is therefore much obliged to that person who endeavours to facilitate the study of history, and enable the student to reap every ENG. REV. VOL. XV. APRIL 1790. .
advantage which attends it. In this view the public will not be ungrateful to Dr. Priestley.
We cannot give the reader a higher idea of the importance of this work, or a clearer view of the plan pursued in it, than by inserting the introduction to the first lecture :
The study of history is more or less the employment of all persfons of reading and education. This was, indeed, the earliest use that was made of letters. For the most ancient poems were almost entirely historical; and verse was first cultivated in preference to profe (which seems to be the mos natural vehicle of history) as the best, because the most secure, method of transmitting to posterity the knowledge of past events. In all ages the writing of history has em ployed the ableft men of all nations; and to this day hardly any writer enjoys a greater, a more extensive, and what will probably be a more lasting reputation, than a good historian.
The infinite variety there is in the subjects of history, makes it inviting to persons of every disposition. It may be either trifling or serious. It supplies materials with equal ease and equal copioul. ness for the sallies of mirth, and the gravelt disquisitions of philosophy. As every thing comes under the denomination of history, which informs uis of any fałt which is too remote in time or place to be the subject of our personal knowledge; it is calculated for the use of persons of both sexes, and of men of all ranks and of all professions in life. Because it cannot be presumed that a person of any profession, or in any fituation, can, of himself, come at the knowledge of every fact which it is for his advantage to be acquainted with... · Hiltory is so connected with, and essential to, all kinds of knowledge, that the most superficial essay upon any subject whatever is hardly tolerable, unless some kind of historical facts be introduced or alluded to in it. The necessity of facts to moral writers, or those who write upon the theory of human nature, I need not mention. And certainly no person can be a good divine, much less undertake any part of the controversy with unbelievers, unless he be very well acquainted with history, civil as well as ecclesiastical. Indeed, more than half of the books of scripture consist of history. And as all the prophecies of the Old and New Testament must be verified by history, none but a good historian can be a judicious commentator upon such important parts of the sacred writings.
• Besides, an acquaintance with history is agreeable to us as fociable and converseable creatures ; since it may be considered as a means of extending the power of conversation, and making the dead of the party equally with the living. Nay, as things are circumItanced, the dead contribute more largely to gratify our natural and eager curiosity to be informed of past and remote transactions.
In this field of history, therefore, which is open to every man of letters, and in which every man of taste and curiosity cannot fail to pass a great part of his leisure hours, it cannot but be desirable to have a guide (at least upon a person's first introduction into it) left he should lose himself in the boundless variety it affords, and not be
able to find those convenient eminences from which he will have the most easy and agreeable view of the objects it contains. In the character of this guide, gentlemen, I now offer you my best aslistance,
The course of lectures we are now entering upon is intended to facilitate the study of history, both by directing you to the eafieft me. thods of acquiring and retaining the knowledge of it, and making the proper use of it when you are possessed of it.
• That the observations I have collected for this purpose may be, the most intelligible and useful, I shall dispose of them in the fol. lowing method; considering,
1. The general uses of history:
II. The fources of history. • III. What is necessary or useful to be known previous to the study of history.
'IV. Directions for the more easy acquiring and retaining a knowledge of history.
i V. Proper objects of attention to an historian. And under this "head I shall consider the several subjects of general policy, or the cir
cumstances that chiefy contribute to render civil societies secure, numerous, and happy, as being the most important of all objects of attention to readers of history.
• VI. In the last place I would give you a general view of history civil and ecclefiaftical, but fhall content myself with referring to Holberg, or some other epitome of general history.'
These five general heads are subdivided into a variety of particulars, which comprehend much more than is promised in the title-page; indeed, they contain a range of knowledge so extensive, and so well adapted to the purposes of life, that the attainment of it would not only lead to a complete acquaintance with the history of all ages, but form the useful citizen, the able statesman, and intelligent philosopher. The following fub jects, which are treated of in Part V, ( Of the most important
objects of attention to a reader of history') will confirin what we have said. "Different objects to different persons, &c. < General observations on political measures, periods of history « more particularly worthy of attention.--The rise and declen"sion of the Roman empire. The time when the history of
several European countries begins to be interesting to the rest of Europe. The most remarkable periods in the English and
Scotch history. The most interesting periods in the hiftory" (of literature and the arts.--The most important periods in " the history of manufactures and commerce. Every thing in
teresting in history which contributes to make a nation happy, < populous, or secure. Of government in general. Of poli<tical and civil liberty, &c.-Of despotic government.-Of
democracy. Of aristocracy. Of the present European mo. narchies.-- Of the permanence of governments, &c.--Of a
of gove of defpoprelent Euroc. of de
' ftate of barbarism. The European governments (and partie 'cularly the English) traced from their rise in Germany to • their present form. Of the feudal system, &c.-Rise of i corporations. The rise of the English commons. The
declension of the feudal system not equal in all parts of į Europe. Of laws, criminal laws, &c. The theory of ( the progress of law.-Of an attention to agriculture. Of ( arts and manufactures.- Of commerce. Of colonies to a ( commercial state.-Maxims with respect to money.--Of the « interest of money. Of paper money. Of exchange.--Of 6. luxury, &c.-Of politeness, &c. Of the influence of religion con civil society. Of civil establishments of religion. The
influence of philosophy on civil affairs. Of the populousness
of nations. Of the strength of nations.-Of the expences of e government.-Of national debts.-Of science, &c. &c.-Of ! an attention to Divine Providence in the conduct of human caffairs.' · The reader will perceive, by this detail of subjects, which appear under a single head, the wide field which is opened before him. We do not say that upon all, or indeed upon any of these subjects, he will meet with every thing that is necessary to be known. This was not to be expected; neither was it the intention of the author that he should. But here he will find the route that he is to pursue marked out with truth and precision, and in general every author referred to which can enable him to proceed with success; and this is all that can be expected from a work of the kind, from a text-book for lectures on history. A few errors and inadvertencies which Dr. Priestley has fallen into, the reader will be enabled to correct by a careful examination of the sources from which the lectures are compiled, and which, as we have already observed, are referred to in the work.
We could have wished to have laid before the public what the author has faid of the method of studying English history, and his account of our original historians; but such an extract would carry us beyond our proper bounds; we shall therefore content ourselves with inserting his account of our historians from the
fixteenth century: · "The first writer worthy of our notice in the fixteenth century is Robert Fabian, an eminent merchant, and some time sheriff of London, where he died in the year 1512. His Historiarum Concordantiæ consists of seven parts, of which the six first bring down the history from Brutus to William the Conqueror; and in the seventh he gives the history of our kings from the Conqueror to Henry VII. He is very particular in the afrairs of London, many things concerning the government of that great city being noted by him which are not to
be met with any where else. He mixes all along the French history with the Englih, but in different chapters. In the beginning of the seventh part he observes Higden's method, of making his years commence at Michaelmas.
Polydore Virgil was the most accomplished writer, for elegance and clearness of style, that this age afforded. He wrote the history of our nation in Latin to Henry Vill. He was much acquainted with English affairs; but being a catholic, he gives a very unfair account of the reformation, and of the conduct of the protestants. His work, however, is necefsary to supply a chasm of almost seventy years in our history, including particularly the lives of Edward IV. and Edward V. which period is hardly to be found in Latin in any other author.
• Edward Hill, who was some time recorder of London, where he died in the year 1547, wrote a large account of the wars between the houses of York and Lancaster, which he dedicates to Henry VIII. If the reader desires to know what sort of clothes were worn in each king's reign, and how the fashions altered, this is the author for his purpose. In other respects his information is not very valuable.
• The Chronicle written by William Harrison and Ralph Hollingshead, two obscure clergymen, was well' received, and is still greatly esteemed. Holling head frequently owns the great aslistance he had from Francis Thynne, some time Lancaster herald, and an eminent antiquary in the reign of Queen Elizabeth. The second edition of this history was continued to the year 1586 by John Hooper, alias Vowel.
• The first author we meet with in the seventeenth century is John Ştow. He was a member of the Merchant Taylors' company in London. He travelled through a good part of England in search after manuscript historians, in the libraries of our cathedral churches, and was very exact and critical in his collections. Having spent above forty years in these studies, he was put upon the correction and publishing of Reyne Wolf's Chronicle, by Archbishop Whitgift; and he had fairly transcribed his work, and made it ready for the press, when he died, in the year 1605. Upon his death the revising and continuation of his work was committed to Edward Hows, who says he bestowed thirty years in bringing it into that good order and method in which we now see it.
The Chronicle of John Speed is the largest and best, says Mr. Nicholson, that is extant. It begins with the first inhabitants of the island, and ends with the union of the two kingdoms under King James, to whom it is dedicated.
• The Chronicle of Richard Baker, who died in the fleet in the year 1644, met with very great success. The author hinself wrote the history of our kings from the Romans down to the end of the reiga of James I. and it was continued to the restoration by Edward Philip, who having the perufal of some of the Duke of Albemarle's papers might have set that great revolution in its true light, had not ambition and Aattery carried himn beyond the truth and his copy. Q3 -.